Sally Shackleton

Escaping the Gaze

sallyThere is my life on the wall– my daughter and my husband. Neither of these things were relationships I imagined as a younger person. Marriage was a construct I did not imagine I would indulge. Motherhood was not something I thought I could claim. Both of these identities are now filters through which I am viewed, but also identities I can lay claim to. I came to marriage and motherhood in a journey I considered unusual, but then I think everyone thinks their individual experiences are unique. In the scheme of things, the labels stick to your skin in exactly the same way – rendering all woman, all whiteness, all mothers exactly the same. Wife, Husband, man woman, daughter – this things have always meant something.

When you examine identities closely enough, picking at them, untangling them, they become nothing at all and everything at the same time.

They are systems we are entangled in, constructed around our sex, relationships and bodies, but are not us. It is difficult being gazed at, having the camera aimed at you with an artist’s intention behind it. Not unlike the difficulties of wearing your skin, gender and sex in others’ gaze. There is no escaping the gaze, nor the inherited traits that power is constructed around. I can only be seen and carry my race, gender sex with awareness of their power (or lack of it) and perhaps be contrary. And you, the viewer, can only do the same. – Sally Shackleton

Sally Shackleton is a long time activist in the women’s sector and currently the director of SWEAT (Sex Worker’s Education and Advocacy Taskforce), an organization dedicated to addressing health and human rights issues pertaining to sex workers. She lives in Muizenberg with her partner Robert Hamblin and daughter Georgia.